Mimi Khalvati (b. 1944, Tehran) spent much of her childhood at boarding school on the Isle of Wight, only returning to Iran at seventeen. She has been resident in the UK since the age of twenty-five, where she has published seven collections of poetry, winning an Arts Council Writers’ Award for Mirrorwork, one children’s book, and edited three anthologies, alongside working in the theatre as an actor and director. She is co-ordinator of the Poetry School and a tutor for the Arvon Foundation, and has been Poet in Residence to the Royal Mail.

Of her residency at the Royal Mail, Khalvati wrote that “Stamps are a miniature art form; so, you could say, is lyric poetry and, like any miniature art, these expand and open into huge worlds.” This is an understanding of poetry that is most visible in the facets of a sequence such as the excerpt from Entries on Light, and informs each detail through this recording; details such as the eponymous ‘Snails’, who “waved their horns, as if in dream”, enrich the poet’s understanding of life, and joy in it, or ‘The Piano’ that, being observed, brings a son’s struggle with his instrument into contact with wider issues of motherhood, caring and the way such things can be silent.

Khalvati resists being typecast as a Persian poet, working firmly in the current of British poetry; yet she is interested in the tension between her Persian and British influences. One manifestation of this can be seen in ‘Writing Letters’, with its attention to “countries / we reclaimed, disowned again, caught between / two alphabets”; another is that Khalvati has become one of the foremost exponents of the ghazal in English. This shows her interest in form – this recording includes poems called ‘Villanelle’ and ‘Rubaiyat’, each fluent examples of these forms – and the attention to the cadences in the freer poems shows the effect of Khalvati’s experience that, in writing poems, “the poetry’s not there until it’s audible in some way.”

This interest in sound carries into Khalvati’s reading style, which combines a melodic understanding of the lines and rhymes with the theatrical training to do them dramatic justice. This creates a revealing performance that opens the very hearts of these poems, that brings them as close as the rose comes in Khalvati’s poem ‘Come Close’.

Mimi Khalvati’s Favourite Poetry Sayings:

“The true subject of poetry is the loss of the beloved.” – Faiz Ahmed Faiz

“The imagination’s cry is a sexual cry.” – Adrienne Rich

Mimi's recording was made on 28 July 2005 at the Audio Workshop, London, and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Poems by Mimi Khalvati

‘Rubaiyat’ for BBC 100 - Mimi Khalvati
Hearing Voices - Mimi Khalvati
Overblown Roses - Mimi Khalvati
Don’t Ask Me, Love, for That First Love - Mimi Khalvati
Mimi Khalvati in the Poetry Store

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Books by Mimi Khalvati


Arts Council Writers' Award for Mirrorwork

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